When I joined The Daily Campus as a photographer during my freshman year at the University of Connecticut, I had no idea that three years later I would be leading the organization as editor-in-chief. When I started, I was an 18-year-old environmental science major who didn’t exactly know what she wanted out of her college experience. But my very first day at The Daily Campus erased my aimlessness.
On a warm September evening in 2018 I ran up the stairs of the shady, alley-way entrance to The Daily Campus building for the first time. A conference room on my left, which was rather haphazardly decorated with old papers and random doodling, was packed with people for the photography section meeting. A serious-looking girl sat at the head of the table, and introduced herself as Charlotte Lao, the Photo editor. She began reading the photography assignments that were needed for that week, and I foolishly raised my hand for an event that I was definitely too amaetuer to take photos of: the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Innovation Partnership Building.
Did I have a camera that I vaguely knew how to use? Yes. Was I skilled enough to take photos at an event that was a top story that week? No, absolutely not. But, I did it anyway. The next day I walked into Buckley dining hall and saw my photo plastered big on the front page, and I knew that this was what I wanted to do.
Being a part of the Photo section at The Daily Campus was the most rewarding part of my time at UConn. I saw so many sides of the university through covering it as a photojournalist: sports games, theater productions, student cultural events, board of directors meetings, protests and more. UConn was a truly magical place, and I had the privilege to capture it every week and show the world what this place looked like through my eyes. The other photographers in the section inspired me endlessly with their creativity and skills. We were a community of people who cared deeply about the place that we all lived, worked and studied, and strived to document it the best we could. I met some of my closest friends in the photo section, but am especially grateful to have met Charlotte, who taught me that even when no one else holding a camera at an event looks like you, you can create something just as amazing as they can.
Needless to say, I came to care a lot about The Daily Campus. It was a truly remarkable feat, how a group of 20-something-year-olds created an entire newspaper (not to mention a website and social media presence) every day, filled with amazing written and visual content. I saw that the paper gave a voice to students and played a vital role in the democracy of the university. I knew I had a place there, continuing the tradition of a century-old institution — one that literally wrote the history of UConn, from a student perspective, every single weekday of each semester.
My involvement at The Daily Campus was instrumental in shaping my skills, work ethic and personal values. What started as an unpaid photography gig quickly turned into a transformative experience. As I cared more and more about the paper, I realized I wanted to help lead it. I quickly rose through the ranks; first as the associate Photo editor, then as a member of the board of directors, and then eventually as editor-in-chief in my senior year.
It would be an understatement to say being EIC of The Daily Campus was challenging. I faced long hours and dealt with a limitless scope of tasks, from figuring out how to cover sensitive issues, to managing its over half-million dollar budget. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and returning to running an in-person newsroom after a year of virtual operations further exacerbated the demands of the role. Nevertheless, I never left a night of work in a worse mood than when I entered. The people of The Daily Campus sustained me, and reminded me how much I loved this organization. The passion of the community of people that created The Daily Campus every day, showed me that when you care about something, you make it happen.
The past four years at The Daily Campus have taught me so much, I could never explain it all in just this column. I just know that I will forever be changed by the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met here. My parting message to those people especially: I love you all more than you know, and thank you for everything!